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Mother credited Chiropractic for saving son’s life in 1915

This photo, taken circa 1916, shows the Holmes Building located on the northeast corner of Sixth and Broadway. About this time, W.C. and Martha Bull, chiropractors, vacated offices in this building and moved across the street to the Fidelity Building, 617 Broadway. Note the Labor Press offices were on the second floor. At this time the building had three entrances on the Broadway side of the building. Later those doors were closed off and the main entrance moved to the Sixth Street side of the building. Steve Chou collection.


At the end of December, in the year 1915, Mrs. Mildred Person of 811 Bridge Street in Hannibal, Missouri, offered a testimonial for William Dennis Bull, D.C., who operated a chiropractic clinic in the Holmes Building, at 102 N. Sixth Street.

Published as an advertisement in the Ralls County Record on Dec. 31, 1915, Mrs. Person credited W.D. Bull with restoring her toddler son’s health.

In October 1915, she said, her two-year old son, Charles Henry Person, received a hard fall which developed into spinal meningitis. Under a physician’s care, the toddler was treated with mustard poultice on the spine, he was given bromide for nerves, and calomel. Five doctors in addition to an osteopath were consulted, Mrs. Person said. The child finally fell into a death-like stupor, and a physician advised that the child didn’t have long to live. During the ordeal, the child lost his eyesight.

“A kind friend urged me to try chiropractic; called in Dr. Bull late one evening. He gave him an adjustment; child fell into a peaceful sleep. … By the 15th (treatment), the baby was walking with a little aid.” At his low point, the child was down to 15 pounds. After the treatments, he gained weight again, reaching 36 pounds. “Is the very picture of health, eyesight is perfect, no deformity whatever, mind rational, all owing, thanks to the wonderful merits of chiropractic.”

Charles Henry Person went on to live a hale and hearty life, eventually passing on Christmas Eve, 1991, at the age of 79.

His youngest son is Harvey Person of Hannibal.

New treatment

Chiropractic was a new form of treatment at the time. The American Chiropractic Association reports that Daniel David Palmer is credited with giving the first chiropractic adjustment in 1895. He established the first chiropractic school in 1897 in Davenport, Iowa.

Meanwhile, W.D. Bull, a native of Iowa, earned his living through farming. An article in the Jan. 7, 1916, edition of the Ralls County Record states that W.D. came down with a stiff knee, which prevented him from actively participating in farming.

“By chance he resorted to Chiropractic and the result was so satisfactory that he and Mrs. Bull took up the study of the new science and for the past 5 years (since 1911) have been adjusting.”


A husband and wife team, William Dennis and Martha Ann Griffith Bull, are believed to be Hannibal’s pioneer chiropractors, locating in town circa 1912. W.D. Bull’s listing as a chiropractor is first included in the 1914 Hannibal City Directory.

Trained in the Palmer Method, which was taught in Davenport, Iowa, Mr. and Mrs. Bull had an office as well as their home in the Holmes Building, in room 103, on the northeast corner of Broadway and Sixth, Hannibal, pre-1916.

While Mrs. Bull only practiced chiropractic a few years, in 1916, her practice was limited to adjustments on women in her home, which was at that time located at 1001A Broadway.

In 1916, W.D. and Martha A. Bull moved their office to the Fidelity Building, room 103, located at 617 Broadway. For a time they resided in the same location. In the mid 1920s, W.D. was joined in the practice by his son, John Clair Bull, and they at times operated a second office in Palmyra.

By 1920, W.D. and Martha Bull were living at 3301 St. Mary’s Ave., on the northwest corner of Scott and St. Mary’s.

W.D. Bull would continue to practice chiropractic at 617 Broadway. He died in 1939. His son followed that same path, also practicing at 617 Broadway. J.C. Bull died in 1984.

Iowa roots

William Dennis Bull came to Missouri from Lime Creek, Washington, Iowa, circa 1903, settling with his wife and children on an 80-acre farm located two miles south of Vandalia in Audrain County.

W.D. Bull was born in Iowa to John and Lizzie Page Bull in January 1865, just two weeks prior to Sherman’s Army leaving Savannah, Ga., to march through the Carolinas.

W.D. Bull spent his first 35 years in Iowa; he was just 10 when his father died, in 1875.

Married to Martha Ann Griffith in 1887, W.D. Bull supported his family through farming in Iowa, near the Minnesota border, until unknown circumstances caused him to pack up and move to Missouri.

Circa 1903, he purchased an 80-acre farm in Cuivre Township, Audrain County, for $45 per acre. Four years later, he sold that farm to J.E. Linn, for $92.50 per acre.

During his years of practice in Hannibal, Audrain and Ralls County residents traveled to Hannibal for treatment.

The Mexico Weekly Ledger reported in December 1916: “E.C. Smith, Roy Smith, MIss Margaret Smith and Mrs. Roma Braden have gone to Hannibal to take chiropractic treatment under W.D. Bull, C.D.”

On March 15, 1918, the Ralls County Record reported: Miss Mary Jameson came home Tuesday from Col. B.E. Briscoe’s near Hannibal, where she has been staying for the past three weeks in order to be convenient to take treatment of Dr. Bull in Hannibal. Miss Mary has been in poor health the past winter, but her family and friends are in hopes she is receiving permanent benefit and will soon be well.”

Miss Jameson was married to Leslie Gordon Bramblett, who died Sept. 11, 1927, at the age of 29. A few years later, Mary Bramblett enrolled in the St. Mary’s Hospital nurse training program in Quincy, Ill. After additional training at the Mayo Hospital in Rochester, Minn., she went to work as supervisor of surgery at the Southern Pacific Hospital in San Francisco.

She died in 1975 and is buried beside her husband at Barkley Cemetery in New London.

W.D. Bull placed this advertisement in the Aug. 7, 1916, edition of the Ralls County Record. He moved his office to 617 Broadway. He, and later his son in turn, would continue to practice chiropractic in this building into the 1980s.

Linda Whelan Geist found this sign at the Applebees Tree Flowers and Gifts on Main Street in Monroe City, owned by Matt Perrine. The sign is from the 1980s. J.C. Bull had an office in the Fidelity building, 617 Broadway, at the time, as did William B. Spaun, attorney, who moved to this office in in the early 1980s following an as-yet unsolved arson fire at his previous long-time office at 500 Broadway. Photo contributed by Linda Whelan Geist.

The 1924 Hannibal Southwestern Bell Telephone Company directory, courtesy of Robert Spaun, offers a glimpse at days gone by, including the location of W.D. and J.C. Bull’s practice in the Fidelity Building, 617 Broadway.

A portion of a page from the May 1916 Bell Telephone Directory, courtesy of Robert Spaun. W.D. and Mrs. Bull were chiropractors with offices in the Fidelity Building. Their phone number was 389. Notice other familiar Hannibal names on the same page.

This is the advertisement in which Mildred Person of Hannibal credited chiropractic for restoring her young son’s life in 1915. It was on page 4, of the Dec. 31, 1915, edition of the Ralls County Record.

John Clair Bull (1899-1984) Photo from Mary Lou Montgomery's photo collection.

John C. Bull. Contributed by his daughter, Sally Bull Hayes.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’ and the newest book, “Oakwood: West of Hannibal.” Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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